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Answering "Are we there yet?'

Published Oct. 9, 2005

How many times on a long car trip do parents hear these words: "Are we there yet?"

Young children have little concept of time and space, says Wanda Draper, a child development specialist at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, so parents should respond in terms that children can understand.

"We'll be there when we stop and sleep two more times," is a good response, Draper said, or parents can say, "after some snacks and some play, it won't be too long until we get there."

Older children, 7 to 13, can be asked to chart out how long it will take to get to the next major town. "This way, you are allowing them to use their minds, which tends to quiet down their bodies, which are very confined by the car," she said.

If arguments break out among siblings, she says early intervention is not always a good idea. Many times parents will be accused of taking sides, which often makes matters worse, so tolerate disputes as long as you can stand it.

When things get out of hand, pull the car off the road for a "cooling off period."